Joy Ladin

Not Unlike

I am not not, I am not un-, I am not unlike
a forgotten word
balanced on the tip of a tongue,

I do not dis-identify
with sparrows, snow patches, unpopped corn or unpresiding presidents,
I am not unsympathetic

to the melting of icecaps,
I neither confirm nor deny
the moral implications

of the disingenuous empiricism
from which I cannot detach myself
as I attempt to disentangle

filial assumptions from the flesh
of the son who turns away when I wave,
nor can I readily distinguish

the privileges of walking the earth,
earning, owing, giving and forgiving,
from the privilege of standing at the intersection

of subjectivity and subjection,
smiling at babies, singing psalms, confessing my racism,
telling a story that is not unlike my life

to a sky as distant as the ear
of the man my young son loved
when I was not unlike his father.

Joy Ladin is the author of seven books of poetry, including Lambda Literary Award finalists Impersonation and Transmigration, and Forward Fives award winner Coming to Life; two new collections, Fireworks in the Graveyard (Headmistress Press) and The Future is Trying to Tell Us Something: New and Selected Poems (Sheep Meadow Press) are coming out in 2017. Her memoir of gender transition, Through the Door of Life, was a 2012 National Jewish Book Award finalist. She holds the David and Ruth Gottesman Chair in English at Stern College of Yeshiva University, and her work has been recognized with a National Endowment of the Arts fellowship and a Fulbright Scholarship. Click here to preorder Fireworks in the Graveyard from Headmistress Press.